Valerie Paul and Audrey Unkle were more than just co-workers, they were best friends. So when Audrey was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and began undergoing chemotherapy treatments, Valerie was there to support her friend at every step. As you know, a side effect of chemotherapy is hair loss and Audrey was no exception.
“She was very, very much about her hair,” Valerie said, sitting in the front room of her Rockledge home recently. “When she lost her hair, she showed me her head one time in the bathroom, and she said, ‘I’m so ugly now.’ And I said, ‘No. You don’t see what I see.’ “I thought she looked beautiful.”
Unfortunately, Audrey would lose her battle at the age of 56, but this would not be the end of the story. Valerie was an avid Barbie collector and thought giving little girls going through treatments a beautiful doll that resembled them would provide comfort. After meeting Wanda Schultz through an acquaintance the two teamed up.
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A chance viewing of a young cancer patient on the Ellen show led to the two volunteering at a summer camp where they helped serve lunch to young cancer patients and passed out their special bald Barbies. The two knew that Barbies wouldn’t be appropriate for all young patients and branched out. They now make baby dolls and Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls. By their estimates, they’ve provided nearly 400 dolls for young cancer patients.
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The dolls are very much appreciated by the patients who receive them. “I thought it was really cool,” Julie said, holding onto the doll, still safely encased in its original Collector Edition box. “Everybody thinks Barbies are so perfect and flawless. Seeing one with no hair makes you feel really good about yourself.”
They recently held a fundraiser to raise money for more supplies and brought in more than $1400. But regardless of how much they are able to bring in via donation, the labor of love is sure to continue. “It’s very much such a labor of passion and love, that really, it’s OK,” Valerie said. “I literally didn’t even realize until my dad came down to see me and said, ‘Do you know how much money you’ve spent?'”
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